6/8/2011 to 6/9/2011 | India , Tripura

Agartala: The Drunken Sadhu

Agartala is Tripura’s capital a flat urban sprawl surrounding the turn of the century Ujjayanta Palace.  The weather in June was hardly ideal, hot and humid, though the pineapple sold throughout the city on street corners everywhere was absolutely delicious, an explosion of sweet flavor in every bite.  At bargain price of as little as 5 rupees (10 cents) for a small one, pineapple soon became my Tripura addiction.  As I walked through the market an enthusiastic Sadhu waved me over to join him in a melon shop.  He spoke a bit of English and I decided to join him and see where this would lead.  The owner of the pumpkin and melon shop was his devotee and had built the Sadhu a temple above his shop.  I followed the jovial Sudhu up the ladder at the back of the shop to the shrine.  A small wooden floored room draped in posters and pictures of Hindu gods.  As was the case with many conversations I’ve had with Sadhus, our conversation oscillated between repetitions of a few well formed if slightly obvious philosophical thoughts to babbling incoherence.  I was able to catch his repeated reference that all religions were same, a point I could agree with.  This seemed to please him. I soon discovered the secret to the Sadhu’s enthusiasm and general jovial disposition was alcohol, rum to be precise.  He pulled out a bottle and I joined him for one of his many shots.  Though alcohol is generally taboo in Hindu society, I had heard there was a sect of Sadhus in the northeast who used alcohol in tantric rituals and offerings.  My present company seemed to be a follower of that method, or else he just like to drink.  I rarely miss the video feature, my 50d camera body was the last version from Canon in that line not to include video, but this was one of those occasions. In the midst of throwing back shots of rum, the Sadu burst in to a very enthusiastic rendition of “we shall over come.”  The sight of a half naked dread wearing sadhu animatedly singing “we shall overcome” as he threw back shots of rum surely would have been a youtube sensation.  Stills just don’t do it justice in this case.  After a few pictures, I said goodbye to the drunken Sadhu, his ramblings becoming less coherent, to continue my exploration of Agartala.

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